Caetano Veloso: Ce

Matt Cibula By

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Caetano Veloso: Ce is not a jazz album, but it's not really a pop or samba or world music record, and despite its vocals/guitar/bass/drums format, it's not a rock album either. So why am I reviewing it here? Well, first because it's by Caetano Veloso, the reigning genius of Brazilian popular music, and therefore worthy of study. On the realz, the man is responsible for more haunting beauty, discordant craziness, avant-garde poetry, and overall visionary-itude than anyone else living anywhere in the world. So it needs to be at least listened to and argued about and cranked up.

Secondly, because Veloso really is kind of a jazz singer. He's 64 years old, but his nimble and supple voice still sounds like it did when he was 34. More angry melancholy is packed into his crooning on "Não Me Arrependo" ("I Don't Regret") than in many acts' whole careers, and his tense voice gets one of its greatest features in the slow nervy tribute "Waly Salomão."

Thirdly, the songs are stirring and stunning no matter what kind of music you ostensibly like. Veloso's legendary wordplay is in overdrive here; while it loses a little, the English translation of the opener "Outro" will show you what cards Veloso's playing with here:

A happy and cruel look on my face
Happy and cruel as a hard on
Lighting itself up in the dark
Bristling in the bushes

The guy is not messing around here; these songs are all about life and death and sex and frustration and anger and happiness and, y'know, life. This album is not the freaky psychedelic punkery of his Tropicalia days, nor the experimental groove of his late 1970s period, nor even the complex knotty sort of thing he perfected with Livro (Nonesuch) in the late '90s—but it is just as intense and dramatic as anything he's ever done, and a lot more personal too.

But I would guess the best jazz-related reason this album should be reviewed here is the flat-out amazing performance turned in by guitarist Pedro Sá. The whole band (all two other members) is plenty tight, with Ricardo Dias Gomes and Marcelo Callado forming a potent rhythm section, and heir apparent Moreno Veloso—but Sá is killing it all over the place with his electric guitar work. He gets everyone through "Minas Lágrimas" with his tense squibbling, but when he gets the chance to open it up it's lookout time. His solo on "Rocks" is straight out the garage rock/hair metal intersection; his slashing runs on the closer, "O Heroiy," bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. The man just might be the guitar hero we've all been waiting for all this time. Who would deny that that is worth hearing, even if you're a big old jazz snobbington, or if you haven't liked much Brazilian music before now? No one!

Yes, this album does in fact rock, especially on tracks like "Waly Salomão" and "Outro." But that doesn't mean we cannot learn from it and embrace it. Old dog, new tricks, all that crazy stuff. It all makes it a must-hear for all music lovers, aficionados, casual fans, and people with working brainstems and/or beating hearts.

Track Listing: Outro; Minhas L

Personnel: Caetano Veloso: vocals, guitars; Pedro S

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records | Style: Brazilian


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